Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Today, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved two important pieces of marine wildlife legislation, paving the way for full Senate action on them. The committee unanimously passed the Marine Mammal Research and Response Act, S. 1289, and passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act as part of a larger legislative package.

The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act would prohibit the commercial trade of shark fins and products containing shark fins. The legislation was introduced to the Senate last month as S. 1106 by Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. Today, the committee voted 23 to 5 to add the bill language to the Endless Frontier Act, S. 1260, through an amendment filed by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Capito. In so doing, the committee rejected, by a separate vote of 22 to 6, an amendment filed by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., that would have substantially weakened the shark fin legislation. A large legislative package with good prospects for advancement in the Senate, the Endless Frontier Act ultimately passed the committee by a vote of 24 to 4.

The companion House bill, H.R. 2811, was introduced last month by Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, D-Northern Mariana Islands, and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and has 122 total cosponsors so far. In the last Congress, the House overwhelmingly passed the legislation by a vote of 310 to 107. Although the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed the legislation in the last Congress also, the full Senate did not act on it before the session ended.

The Marine Mammal Research and Response Act, led by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reauthorizes the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program, which provides grants for members of the country's marine mammal stranding response network, and is the network’s sole source of federal funding. From its inception in 2000 through 2017, the Prescott Grant Program provided 739 grants to regional networks that collectively responded to an average of 5,167 sick and injured marine mammals each year.

HSLF thanks Sens. Booker, Capito, Schatz, Cantwell, and Murkowski for their leadership on these measures. We urge Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to quickly schedule a vote by the full Senate.